Legal Memorandum: Elements of a Negligence Claim

Issue: What are the elements of a negligence claim?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Negligence claim; Elements; Proximate cause
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 490 N.W.2d 108; 539 N.W.2d 398
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2009

The well known elements of a negligence cause of action are “(1) the existence of a duty of care; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) injury; and (4) that the breach of the duty was the proximate cause of the injury.”  Watson’s Properties, 2002 WL 1364064 at *3 (citing Louis v. Louis, 636 N.W.2d 314, 318 (Minn. 2001)).

Specifically with respect to the proximate cause element, the Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that, “in order for a party’s negligence to be the proximate cause of an injury, ‘the act [must be] one which the party ought, in the exercise of ordinary care, to have anticipated was likely to result in injury to others, . . . though he could not have anticipated the particular injury which did happen.'”  Lubbers v. Anderson, 539 N.W.2d 398, 401 (Minn. 1995) (quoting Wartnick v. Moss & Barnett, 490 N.W.2d 108, 113 (Minn. 1992)).  The defendant’s conduct must be a “substantial factor” in bringing about the injury.  Id. at 401.  As a general rule, “proximate cause is a question of fact for the jury; however where reasonable minds can arrive at only one conclusion, proximate cause is a question of law.”  Id. at 402.  See also Watson’s Properties, LLC v. Menard, Inc., 2002 WL 1364064 at *3 (Minn. App. 2002) (holding that dismissal of negligence claim against closing agent title company constituted error where it could not be said as a matter of law that plaintiff buyer could not […]

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